Robert Rogers (1727-1795) was born in New Hampshire. During the French and Indian War (1755-63) he raised a company of troops known as “Rogers’ Rangers” and succeeded in occupying Detroit and other posts in the Great Lakes area. He went to England in 1765 where he published A Concise Account of North America and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Parliament to finance an expedition to the Pacific Ocean. Rogers returned to America as governor of Michilimackinac, Michigan, but was arrested for conspiring to deliver the fort to the French. He later formed an expedition on his own to travel to the Pacific but never carried out his plans. During the American Revolution he raised a group called the “Queen’s Rangers” and fought on the side of the British.
In his 1765 petition to Parliament, Rogers mentioned a central height-of-land in the western mountains from which flowed several rivers, including the Mississippi and the “Ouragan,” or the River of the West. Rogers’s petition marked the first published use of what became the word Oregon. Ouragan may have come from Ouisconsink, an early name for the Wisconsin River.
Although Rogers’s book lacks maps, it provides a description of the Mississippi River and the major rivers that flow into it. The source of the Mississippi, according to Rogers, is the “Red Lake,” which was formed by a large river running through a notch in the “Central Mountains.” Rogers states that the eastward-flowing “Muddy River,” whose source is attributed as a large bog south of the Central Mountains, empties into the Mississippi River several hundred miles below the Red Lake. Three additional rivers flow into the Mississippi River over the next 800 miles. These three rivers originate in the western “Missouri Ridge”—a double chain of mountains running to the southwest. The last of these rivers is the 2,000-mile-long Missouri River.
A Concise Account of North America was a popular though not always forthright book. Rogers never traveled to either the Missouri or the upper Mississippi rivers yet he insisted: “There is perhaps no finer country in the world than that which lies extended on each side of the Missouri.” In its descriptions of the country and inhabitants along the Mississippi, Rogers’s book is similar to Lahontan’s account. The book interested geographers primarily because of its detailed explication of the pyramidal height-of-land theory. Rogers also was one of the first authors and explorers to insist that the western mountains were the highest mountains on the continent. Thomas Jefferson owned A Concise Account of North America and recommended that it be included on the roster of books for a national library.